ONE Championship star Angela Lee has opened up about the struggles she has endured in recent years, revealing in a self-penned story in The Player’s Tribune that her 2017 car crash was actually an attempt to take her own life.
She also confirmed in that same story that sister Victoria Lee, also a professional mixed martial artist who was unbeaten under the ONE banner, took her own life in December 2022.
The death of 18-year old Victoria Lee sent shockwaves through the MMA community. Angela Lee’s revelation that she attempted to take her own life as the pressures of fighting mounted will no doubt do the same.
Lee became the face of ONE Championship when she captured the promotion’s atomweight title in 2016, part of a nine-fight win streak that saw her win her first five fights via submission, including a rarely-seen Twister.
But in 2017, as she prepared to defend her title, Lee began to feel the pressure, especially in regards to making weight. It led her to try to take her own life. ““My car crash in November 2017 was not an accident. It was a suicide attempt,” wrote Lee, getting into the pressures she felt despite everything in her life going so well.
“I couldn’t stop thinking about the shame that would result if I wasn’t able to make the fight. As someone who had never missed any competition in her entire life, that terrified me. It became all-encompassing,” Lee wrote about her feeling ahead of the fight, and ultimately, the car crash that could have claimed her life. “And, ultimately, I got to a point where I would rather take myself out of the equation than deal with what might come.”
Before going so far as deliberately crashing her own car, Lee revealed that she attempted to break her own arm and give herself a concussion to get out of the fight, a rematch with Mei Yamaguchi. She was 12 pounds overweight at the time. “When those things didn’t work, I decided to get in my car and leave it up to fate to see what happens next,” Lee wrote.
It took the atomweight champion, then just 22-years old and newly engaged, two tries to build up the courage to drive her car off the road.
“That second try, I built up more courage, or whatever you want to call it, and I just pressed my foot all the way down on the gas pedal. As far down as it would go. I don’t know how fast I was going. But it was as fast as my car could move. I wanted to hit the guardrail as hard as I could, and I just remember turning the steering wheel and swerving and then hitting something, and then it was just … rolling.”
Lee awoke upside down in her car. Bystanders eventually came to her aid. She would tell no one of the suicide attempt other than husband-to-be Bruno Pucci, a fellow fighter. She went so far as to attend the event she had been scheduled to face Yamaguchi at, greeting fans. Lee would win the rematch with Yamaguchi the following year, and has never lost the ONE atomweight championship, though she has not fought since October of last year.
Years later, the death of sister Victoria convinced Lee to create Fightstory, a non-profit organization, which appears to have helped inspire Angela to share her own story.
“Fightstory was inspired by Victoria and the remarkable life that she lived at just 18 years old. Fightstory is just as much hers as it is mine,” Lee noted. “It’s something we created together, to save lives and to try and make the world a better place. We want people to know that although you may feel lonely in your fight with mental health, you are not alone.”
Angela Lee’s full story, entitled Resilient, is well worth the read. Lee’s younger brother Christian is the current ONE lightweight and welterweight world champion.